It’s been a controversial summer. The presidential race has turned into a mudflinging contest filled with exaggerations, inaccurate facts, and disrespectful speech from both sides. The Chick-fil-A controversy ignited a violent debate on gay rights. And Todd Akin’s recent comments have provoked an outpouring of hate toward him and the party he stands for.
I’m disappointed in people who insist on dehumanizing the people on the other side of whatever debate they’re on. I’m disappointed in responses that are angry rather than loving. We Americans take our freedom of speech pretty seriously – we can say whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, and be legally protected. What we don’t often think about are the consequences. We don’t think about who might be listening to us speak. We don’t think about the implications of what we’re saying, or who we might be offending. And I think it’s important to do that. Rather than say “These are my views and you are wrong,” I think we should say “Can you tell me why you think the way you do?” and then listen, really listen, without judgment.
The next time someone sends you an article or posts something on their Facebook, I challenge you not to respond for at least a day. Read that article. Really read it. Think about it. Maybe journal about your thoughts and reactions to yourself, or do some more research on the topic. Ask yourself, “Is what I have to say truly necessary? Am I condemning this other person or am I trying to understand them? Am I communicating in a kind way or a cruel one?” Then, if you really think you have something constructive to say, send your friend a private message engaging them in a discussion about the article. There’s just no need for a public battle.
I think we need to stop just posting things on Facebook and other social media things. We need to do something. To use the most recent example, there have been a lot of angry articles and posts out there on Todd Akin’s comments on rape. In my opinion, was what he said wrong? Absolutely. Does hating him and blasting him publicly make me a better person, or the world a better place? No.
What do I suggest we do, you ask? I suggest that you take that anger, that disappointment, that whatever you’re feeling and channel it into something productive. Find a way to advocate for your cause without negativity. Don’t turn yourself or your social media pages into an avenue for hateful speech – no matter how justified or accurate you are. Instead of blasting Mr. Akin, find an organization that treats rape survivors. Make a donation (and hey, it’s probably tax-deductible!). Depending on your time and talents, you could find a way to donate your services. Perhaps lawyers could donate a couple hours each week as legal counsel for the victims. Counselors and psychologists could donate time to work with rape victims. Doctors and nurses can volunteer time in a clinic serving them. Etc, etc, etc.
And something else we can do is take steps to prevent rape in our community. First of all, we can listen to the stories of women and men who have been raped. We can listen with compassion and without judgement. We can condemn the behavior (note I say condemn behavior, not people) of those individuals whom we know to have committed rape, and those who have been witnesses can step forward. We can make it clear to all by our own behavior and by our actions and words to others that sexuality is not something that should ever be used as a weapon. Ever. Stop calling people sluts and whores. Stop watching movies, television shows, and any media that objectifies women – or men. Stop making rape jokes. It’s not funny. It’s just not. I really don’t think anyone can say “I am a funnier and better person because I make jokes about rape.”
Here are a few organizations I found that support rape victims both in the United States and internationally. I’m going to make my donation today. Will you?
Women to Women (international)
Sister Somalia (the first rape crisis center in Mogadishu)
Rape Victims Advocates (located in Chicago)